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Uttarakhand to take up Bhagirathi issue with Centre during zonal council meeting

The Bhagirathi Eco Sensitive Zone, announced by the Union government in December 2012, is one issue that brings the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the two arch rivals, on the same political platform in Uttarakhand

dehradun Updated: Nov 13, 2017 20:43 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times
Uttarakhand News,Bhagirathi,Eco Sensitive Zone
A view of Bhagirathi river in Uttarakhand. (HT Photo)

The Bhagirathi Eco Sensitive Zone, announced by the Union government in December 2012, is one issue that brings the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the two arch rivals, on the same political platform in Uttarakhand.

Toeing the line of the then Congress government, the present BJP is also trying to bring in amendments in the Union government’s order that created a “shock absorber” along the 100km-stretch of the Ganga down from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi as eco sensitive zone. The state government is in talks with the Union ministry for the same.

“The meeting of Central Zonal Council, which is headed by the Union home minister, is due and we have asked the ministry to reconsider demarcation of the zone declared in 2012,” Cabinet minister Madan Kaushik told Hindustan Times on Monday.

The meeting of Central Zonal Council, comprising Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, is likely to be held in November end.

Two former Congress chief ministers, Vijay Bahuguna and Harish Rawat, also pursued the case during their tenures, but with little success. However, “some relief” is expected this time, as both the state and the centre have one party government, said sources associated with the issue.

The zone creation order has restricted the expansion of hydropower projects besides the five ongoing projects — Kaldigarh Langhu Jal Vidyut Pariyojna 9MW, Siyangad Hydro Project 11.5MW, Jalandharygad Hydro Project 18.5 MW and 5.5 MW, Maneribhali Hydro Project Unit-1 90MW and Maneribhali Hydro Project Unit-2 76.4 MW.

The government claims to have lost ₹17,000-crore investments in the hydropower projects with an annual average loss of ₹200 crore due to the notification. A Mint report claims that a panel of environment ministry is reconsidering its dilution, which is being opposed by the monitoring committee overseeing implementation of the zone. “We submitted our plan and union government notified the zone, which was one-sided decision. We too tried to revise the demarcation and hope it will be done soon for the development of the area,” said Harish Rawat, the former CM.

There is currently no focus on development around the protected areas. The forest department has submitted proposals of all national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and conservation reserve, but no decision has been taken so far. Currently, 10km area around the protected areas is already sealed for any developmental activity.

The officers said that they had received queries on the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary from the Union ministry, which were rectified and a report would be submitted soon. “We have proposed declaring 0.3km-3.9 km area around Binsar as eco sensitive zone. There were a few queries that were received that we have managed to clear,” said RC Sharma, the divisional forest officer (DFO) of Almora Civil Soyam.

The Union government’s guidelines prohibit commercial mining, pollution-causing industries and hydroelectric projects, besides discharge of effluents and solid waste in natural water bodies or terrestrial area. It also bans commercial use of firewood, major hydroelectric projects, tourism activity and use or production of hazardous substance. In addition, there is restriction on air and vehicular pollution, felling of trees, construction of hotels and resorts, night traffic, commercial use of natural water resources, erection of electrical cables, use of polythene bags, widening of roads and setting up of sawmills. Activities like organic farming, rainwater harvesting and use of renewable sources are permissible.

First Published: Nov 13, 2017 20:00 IST